I was sick a couple of weekends ago. I spent forty-eight hours in complete misery. I don’t do sick with any grace whatsoever. I cried, felt bad for myself, and moaned, all while quarantined in the guest room.
And my children were fine. Actually, they were more than fine.
They went to the library, to the grocery store, and for a long walk.
They played games, blocks, and babies.
They were bathed, loved, tickled, and read to.
All while I lay in bed on what felt like the verge of death.
I could hear squeals of laughter, the muted, happy tones of back and forth daddy-daughter conversations, and endless Matthew giggles.
He brought me water, then broth, then soup, and finally toast. He made certain that my bucket was clean and nearby.
He anticipated my every need and rubbed my back when I cried.
When I finally emerged, weak from my stomach flu-inflicted stupor, the house was completely clean, the dishes done, laundry folded and put away. I can’t remember the last time that my washer and dryer were not only empty, but had no clothes piled on top.
The refrigerator had even been cleaned out.
He stepped in and took my place. He filled the shoes that I so often feel like I can’t even begin to fill.
He accomplished more in forty-eight hours than I do in a week.
And, although I appreciated having the time to focus on my misery, when I emerged, I was filled with conflicting emotions.
My children were smiling and clean.
My house had not fallen down around me.
Meals had been made, eaten without complaint, and cleaned up.
And I had no hand in any of it.
If I’m honest, there was a part of me that was uncomfortable with the realization that the rhythm of my family continued in my absence; I suspect that perhaps things went even more smoothly.
I looked around, hoping for a stray sock, a dirty plate, a misplaced toy.
Craig had not only coped with my absence, but he had excelled where I often feel like I’m just barely hanging on.
I should have been happy with that. Our children were happy, loved, and content. Why wasn’t I?
So much of my self-worth at this point in my life is tied up in my role as a mother. This job of mothering is incredibly difficult in that there are no performance reviews, no raises or promotions. No pats on the back for a job well done. No real way to measure success.
When someone steps in and appears to do your job better than you do, it’s humbling and disconcerting.
But, there’s a huge part of me that finds comfort in knowing that Craig handles it all with such ease. I know that if something should ever happen to me, he could handle things. He would remember which outfits match Katie’s brown shoes and how to do her hair. I know that he would make Matthew smile and help him grow into an amazing man.
Then, two days after my return to the land of the living, Matthew was sitting in his highchair and his sippy cup completely leaked. It had been incorrectly put back together. Craig had somehow missed one of the eighteen puzzle-like pieces necessary for a leak-free cup.
And I stood in the kitchen, looked at the massive puddle and Matthew’s soaked shirt, and I smiled.
I’m fairly certain that Craig threw me a bone.
But, I’ll never ask.